I was on a plane to NYC when I heard the news. John McCain chose a woman as his Vice Presidential pick. My boyfriend turned to look at me with a little bit of panic in his eyes. He was afraid that McCain had performed some master stroke of genius and was going to lock down the Hillary Clinton women. As he watched the CNN ticker roll, he gave me a play by play.
“She has five kids!” “She has a son in the army!” “She has a kid with Down Syndrome!” I think he imagined millions of mini-vans, tires squealing, as soccer moms from all over America rushed polling stations on election day to vote for their sister in Alaska.
I couldn’t blame him; one look at Sarah Palin and I had a little pang of anxiety myself. She’s a way more attractive version of Hillary Clinton whose 20 years younger with five children that rival even Barack Obama’s girls in the cuteness department. But I’d read an article on Palin a couple years back when she was elected Governor of Alaska, so I knew already what she was really about…the pro-life stance, advocacy of abstinence-only, creationism teaching, and bans on gay marriage. It occurred to me while I was sitting there that picking Palin as his running mate was actually an insane decision.
I explained to my boyfriend why this development really wasn’t so scary, well at least not in the way he thought. Then he asked me a difficult question, “Wasn’t it insulting to have a candidate use a woman so transparently as bait for woman voters?”
I don’t support McCain, especially now that he has such a conservative VP on the ticket, but not long ago John McCain and his friends in the White House thought that I, as a woman, was stupid and powerless. By picking Sarah Palin as his running mate McCain has realized my power, but he still thinks I’m stupid. It’s a step forward, albeit small and I’m strangely cheerful about it. While the Republican party has started to pay attention, their attempts at change are so clumsy that they’ve exposed the fact that they still don’t get it.
It’s not just the Palin decision either, it’s as if at every turn the McCain campaign is trying to show their compassionate side and unintentionally proving they don’t have one. Like most people I’ve been holding my breath while watching Gustav bear down on New Orleans the last few days. Poor McCain was supposed to have his shining moment at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul right about now.
He did vastly decrease the activities at the RNC, instead I saw continuous coverage of him pretending to pack emergency supplies into little boxes for a cute photo-op moment while reporters repeatedly talked about whether the levees would hold. He should have receded quietly out of the spotlight until the threat of catastrophe had passed. It’s as if God himself pointed a giant flashing neon sign in his direction that said “Remember Katrina!”
Then there is the scary footage of the violent tactics being used against protesters of the convention in St. Paul after the McCain campaign and the St. Paul police department said that lawful protesters would not be treated like rioters this time around. The GOP may not be making a lot of progress in reality, but at least this time it doesn’t feel like their able to hide it from us.